Agenda item

Agenda item

Children's Services HR Plan

Presentation of the Strategic Director – Children’s and Education Services attached


The Sub Group considered the presentation provided by the Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services.


The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services referred to the main points and themes within the presentation which included: -


·         An overview of Children’s Services Structure and Teams;

·         A description of the various teams and their respective remit;

·         A description of the nine service priorities to meet identified risks and challenges and to maximise available opportunities;

·         How this work and activity supported the Corporate Plan;

·         A profile of the workforce and how this resource was utilised across the service;

·         Data on the use of agency staff and the work to reduce agency spend;

·         An overview of workforce development;

·         An update on activities to support apprenticeships;

·         Data on days lost as a result of staff absence and the work to address this;

·         Data on the number of capability and conduct cases;

·         Feedback from the b-Heard survey and the response to the feedback received; and

·         Describing the identified challenges, opportunities and achievements.


Some of the key points that arose from the Sub Group’s discussions were: -


·         What were the numbers of BAME staff at grade 10 or above;

·         Did the service have enough capacity and was the service structure appropriate;

·         What was the approach taken to undertaking exit interviews to understand the reasons staff left the service;

·         What were the predominant reasons for staff leaving and was there any analysis of where staff went to;

·         Was the use of consultants on the senior management team normal practice;

·         Consideration needed to be given to the overall employment package to attract social workers to work for Manchester, such as the terms of employment and progression opportunities;

·         Had consideration been given to adopting a policy of retention payments for newly qualified social workers to encourage them to remain working for Manchester once they had gained experience;

·         More activities needed to be undertaken to engage with local schools and colleges to promote social work as a viable and attractive career option and to encourage local talent, further commenting that would address the issue of social workers leaving Manchester once experienced to return to their original home area;

·         Apprenticeships should be used to support the future work force planning of social workers; and

·         The importance of recognising that social workers dealt with very challenging case work, noting that the main reason for absence was Stress/Depression.


The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services responded to Members comments by stating that the capacity of the service was regularly reviewed, stating that it was important that the correct ratio of managers to staff was established to ensure that staff were adequately supported. In respect of social worker retention, he stated that the there was no issue with recruiting newly qualified social workers, however the challenge came once they had gained experience. He said that staff were encouraged to engage in exit interviews with Team Managers, however they were not mandatory. He informed the Members that the predominant reason for experienced social work staff leaving was for them to return to their original home area, adding that this was a positive reason, and the experience obtained by working in Manchester made experienced social workers very attractive for other employers, and the market and demand was currently such that Social workers had a lot of options as to where they chose to practice. He also stated that agency pay rates were also an attractive offer for experienced staff.


The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services commented that consideration was being given to address the issue of experienced social workers leaving the Authority. He said that it was important that the stability of social workers and teams was maintained to reduce potential risk and maintain confidence, build effective relationships and deliver support to young people. He further commented that by establishing and retaining teams would also reduce the spend on agency staff.


The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services stated that he was confident that improvements had been made across social work teams, in terms of both caseloads, the ratio of managers to staff, morale and a sense of team spirit. He stated that whilst this was welcomed this was constantly reviewed and opportunities for improvements were always considered, adding that Ofsted also considered such factors when undertaking inspections. He further commented that he did not support the notion of retention payments for newly qualified staff, adding that in his experience staff left as soon as such payments ceased and staff should be encouraged and supported to remain working in Manchester because they were committed to Manchester, its values and delivering improvements for Manchester citizens.


In response to a comment from the Chair regarding the importance of informal methods of recognition and gestures to ensure staff felt valued, similar to that used in other industries the Head of Workforce Strategy stated that whilst there was no formal corporate policy, Managers were encouraged to do this. The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services commented that the staff awards and recognition offer had been improved and he was considering ways to celebrate the achievements of newly qualified social workers, adding that small gestures and behaviours by managers and leaders were equally as important to ensure the correct message and values were relayed to staff. 


The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services acknowledged the question regarding the number so BAME staff employed at grade 10 and above. He stated that it was recognised that this needed to be addressed and BAME staff development and mentoring programmes had been established and the directorate continued to challenge itself regarding this area of activity. 


The Head of HR Operations commented that the approach to social work recruitment  was currently being reviewed across Greater Manchester as the recruitment and retention trends experienced in Manchester were not unique, adding that the bench marking data used for this review process and pay grade information would be circulated to Members following the meeting.


The Interim Director of HROD commented that it was recognised that the issue of future workforce planning across the wider Health and Social Care landscape needed to be addressed and consideration was being given to how to do this. In response to the discussion regarding the use of exit interviews and the low response rate to this offer she stated that she would take the action away from this meeting to consider how this could be improved. 


The Strategic Director Children’s and Education Services informed the Members that the issue of succession planning was being discussed with The Greater Manchester Social Work Academy. He added that Care Leavers were being encouraged to consider social work as a career and noted the comments that attracting home grown talent would address the issue of workers returning to their original home town. He added that opportunities for developing and promoting the number of apprentice social workers were being discussed, adding that it was important to acknowledge the importance of getting the correct balance of experienced and newly qualified staff in teams to ensure the correct support and mentoring could be appropriately given.  


The Interim Director of HROD referred to the discussion regarding staff absences and stress, noting the increased awareness in the city of trauma. She informed Members that in addition to the informal support offered by colleagues and managers within teams, staff could also access specialist commissioned support and counselling. She stated that this was usually available for six sessions, however this could be extended if required, adding that the contract for this service was currently under review. She further commented that options for wider resilience training across the whole directorate were being considered.


The Executive Member for Children and Schools said that capacity within teams was challenged when experienced staff were required to work on specific projects and transformation work. He informed the Members that he regularly visited teams to meet and discuss issues with staff to understand any concerns or emerging issues. He said these were invaluable opportunities for staff to talk openly with him, adding that this practice was also replicated by senior managers across the service, ensuring that they were visible and accessible to staff.




To note the presentation.


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